“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” (Gandhi)
“Our task must be to free ourselves… by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.” (Einstein)
We tend to (conveniently) convince ourselves that certain animals, below some sort of arbitrarily chosen phylogenetic level, are less conscious, less sentient and correspondingly less capable of emotion, than other species. Since (most) humans do possess compassion, the ability to FEEL another’s emotions as if they were our own and strive to alleviate them, it makes it much easier for us to accept, even ignore the slaughter of millions of sentient creatures if we tell ourselves lies about them – tell ourselves they are not sentient, feeling creatures aware of things like death or suffering. But imagine for a moment the very really possibility that creatures like cows can feel emotions like fear, anxiety, pain and sorrow? Most people could not harm a small dog cowering in fear on the floor, or a small child crying. How then do we brutally slaughter millions of animals in a manner – and likely experiencing many of the same thoughts of dread, pain, suffering and death – not dissimilar to the 6 million Jews slaughtered by Hitler?
There is little doubt to the question of whether or not animals cry. We also know that “...all animals and birds share the feelings of love, care, motherhood, pain, territorial possessiveness and intelligence“, therefore it should not be a huge leap for us to accept that animals will also “… feel the emotions of depression, loss , fear and all the nuances in between.” (Maneka Gandhi) Psychological and social sciences have also shown us that when we lower or dehumanize a group, class or race of people, it becomes much easier for us to deny them rights, degrade them, even cause them harm or in the extremes, annihilate them through genocide. Once again, remember Hitler?
So why is it that we so conveniently lower the level of sentience – a capacity for feelings and emotions – in the millions of creatures we slaughter each year for food? Are we afraid we might have to acknowledge they also suffer, feel pain, dread and fear over their pending deaths? Are we afraid that at the last minute we might feel compassion at the thought, or image of an animal clearly in distress as it is led to its’ death, and then decide against killing it? I am sure Goebbels, Himmler and Hitler never gave the “feelings” or “fears” of the Jews any consideration either. Is this what we call “ethical” today? Once again, we know Goebbels, Himmler and Hitler believed that what they were doing was “right”. Do you believe it is “right” to kill a creature which undeniable feels pain, suffering and unimaginable dread as it is led away to its death and suddenly begins to cry?
“Compassion for animals is intimately associated with goodness of character, and it may be confidently asserted that he who is cruel to animals cannot be a good man.” (Schopenhauer)
If you have actually read through this, and have started to formulate thoughts or morally and psychologically convenient tales to explain away what I just said, please also stop to consider, maybe even write them down, exactly and specifically how you explained this away to yourself. You might just learn something about yourself, your values, today.
Put that in your superior human moral cap this morning and give it a few minutes of your thought, your compassion. Maybe even think about the cow that cried before it was slaughtered for your steak.
“Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures.” (Dalai Lama)
“A good deed done to an animal is as meritorious as a good deed done to a human being, while an act of cruelty to an animal is a bad as an act of cruelty to a human being.” (Mohammed)
“Our treatment of animals is important to our own internal state. If we are to expand our horizons, to grow to understand what the relatedness of each and every thing means, then our love and appreciation of all life is essential. Our respect and reverence for all living things will be reflected in our own living.” (Bill Schul)
“Our treatment of animals will someday be considered barbarous. There cannot be perfect civilization until man realizes that the rights of every living creature are as sacred as his own.” (David Starr)
The Bull That Cried Before Being Killed
Knowing it was about to be slaughtered, a bull in Hong Kong did what many people fail to realize or are skeptic about when it comes to animals – he showed emotion. As reported by “Weekly World News”, a group of workers walked a bull to a packaging factory. They were about to slaughter him to make steaks and beef stews. When they were close to the front door of the slaughter house, the sorrowful bull suddenly stopped going forward and knelt down on his two front legs. The bull… was all in tears. How did he know he was going to get killed before he entered the slaughter house? He is even smarter than people.
Mr. Shiu, a butcher recalled, “When I saw this kind of so-called “stupid” animal sobbing and with his eyes in fear and sorrow, I started trembling.” “I called the rest over to see. They were just as surprised. We kept pushing the bull forward, but he just didn’t want to move and sat there crying.” Billy Fong, owner of the packaging factory said, “People thought animals didn’t cry like human beings. However that bull really sobbed like a baby.” At that time, more than ten strong men witnessed the scene and they were all touched.
Those who were responsible for slaughtering even felt more touched and teared as well. Other workers working at the same slaughter house also came to see the crying bull. It was all packed with people. They were all shock by this scene. Three of them said they would never forget this crying bull when they slaughter other animals. With both man and animal crying, everyone knew that nobody could kill the bull. The problem was, what should they do with him? In the end, they raised funds to buy this crying bull and sent him to a temple, where the kind monks would take care of him for life. After the workers had made a decision, a miracle happened. A worker said, “When we promised this bull that we will not kill him, he started moving and followed us.” How did he understand people’s words? Mr. Shiu said “Believe it or not? This is real although it sounds unbelievable.” No doubt, this bull changed these butchers’ lives.
The pain of the bull before the imminence of his death, touched deeply those around him. Not only saved his life. He also gave a lesson in dignity. It is necessary to observe not only the fundamental rights of human beings, but also the rights of animals. Hopefully this story has in turn changed yours.
(Vedic Views, July 8 2012)